Friday, December 16, 2011

Empty Shelves

Today I experienced empty shelves. In a national grocery store. In America. Erase God out of the equation and emptiness will most definitely follow. Allow me to explain.

San Salvador, Bahamas. 2011. We drove our beat- up rented golf cart to a storefront. We were told we would find groceries inside. Though there was dim lighting, we would find provisions for the boat and general grocery supplies. A musty smell, dimly lit, very confined store in need of a mop met us immediately.

A little boy of about 3-years-old in diapers and nothing else ran from behind the counter and greeted us in a quite excited and friendly manner. This beautiful little boy with chocolate eyes smiled  ear-to-ear with brite white teeth. He exuded health and joy and genuine happiness. I stood back just a second, reality check in my spirit as I realized this little boy was happy to see us and appreciative of our patronage. He was excited to see a stranger enter. He hugged me and I loved it!!!!

We approached the dark, steamy middle of the store, where the sun did not reach and the overhead fans struggled to cool. The Bahamanian heat stayed low as we perused the shelves. I tried to be kind as we assessed canned items, packaged pastas and boxes of potatoes and onions.

The mother of the beautiful child proudly led us to her freezera - the only electric appliances in the entire place. The coolers held frozen ears of corn, frozen fruits and some cheeses and garlic breads. We thanked her and headed to the cash register.

I sadly said goodbye to our young greeter. He gave me one more hug before we left. I stole a backward glance as the golf cart left a swirl of dirt in front of the storefront. The little boy had returned to his mama's lap. He no doubt waited for the next tourist to arrive and relieve the shelves of more items after giving him a big hug and a smile. One could not help but hug him and smile. He was infectious. He was special. You wanted to empty the shelves in that store just to keep that boy in diapers.

Erasing God from America
Today I was in a place so very opposite of San Salvador, Bahamas. I was in Boca Raton, Florida - where I live. Beautiful, upscale, more shopping than one can imagine. And I watched as a store clerk pulled items from the back of a shelf to the front because the entire store was 1/3 less full due to the economy. Yes there was electricity and Barry Manolow sang overhead. Out front one could not miss the Jaguars, BMWs and SUVs. But inside that grocery store today were sparsely-filled shelves.

Just a few moments before I spied the last large container of Chobani Low Fat Greek Yogurt (love it!) up high. An elderly gentleman was standing in front of this product that I wanted to grab and so I bypassed him to pick up a quart of goat milk. I came back and he was still there. He saw me struggling to reach the yogurt and offered to help. I didn't think he could reach it and when he did I exclaimed, "Oh thank you so much!! I love men!!" He laughed hard and I laughed along with him. I didn't think about my predicament with having to reach up high and far for the last item on the shelf until I reached the spice aisle and saw another woman struggling as I had to reach an item.

And then the cashier I have come to enjoy chatting with explained why she was not at the register but pulling items to the edge of the shelf. Empty shelves. Normally she is a cashier. However, they gave her ten minutes to go down each aisle in the store and pull products forward. On a rotation basis, this was something the store had begun doing to try and camouflage the hard cold truth. Empty shelves. Few items left,  inventoried and bought.

And I thought of the little greeter in the Bahamas in the supermarket. How can a country like America have empty shelves? We have been a proud faith-filled country - the land of milk and honey. A super power where everyone wants to live? And then as God so often does, He reminded me, They have taken Me out of the schools. Out of government. Out of the textbooks. The public square. Churches are even watering down my message so that no one feels bad about forgetting Me. Empty shelves are nothing compared to empty heart and empty minds that are devoid of the Truth of My Word and the life-breathing salvation that I have to offer.

As I headed down that aisle today, toward the light at the front of the store I realized that no matter where you are, or where you will be, the only thing that matters is that Jesus Christ resides in your heart, in  your mind and in all that you do and  hope to do. He is the joy that that little boy had in his eyes. Despite the empty shelves in that Bahamian store, that mama and baby had Him. I know this because we recognize His people. We know His light and His hope. Those chocolate eyes were not just innocent but they were His as well. For the dusty Cross which hung over the door did not escape me nor the tattered Bible opened to the Book of John. There were empty shelves in that place but hearts filled with the love of God.

I was sad as I realized the empty shelves I saw today don't have to remain that way. God tells us in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Enjoy this video. Something about it touched my heart. I hope it will touch yours too. I like to open 5 or 6 windows of this YouTube and let the reminders come over and over again....

Lord Jesus, please remind us today that empty shelves do not have to indicate empty hearts or empty lives. We know these are the last days (Matthew 24:4-14) and we must be prepared. We trust you in these times and we look to You for healing and forgiveness. You have reminded Your remnant that We will always be provided for and will never want or need.

Thank you for reminding me of that little Bahamian boy. With just a diaper and a smile he allowed me to look past the empty shelves and the lack of light and power to see Your Power, Your light and Your ability to keep those who love You filled to overflowing, with vats brimming over with new wine and storehouses spilling over with grain. For You love those who seek Your face and don't mind having empty shelves for a season but pray nonetheless for abundance.

We love you Lord Jesus. Please fill our hearts today.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

You Are What You Eat

I spent hours online trying to find a body balm that would drench my summer skin. I did not find what I was searching for even after an hour of googling. My criteria: no animal testing, no alcohol, not too expensive, smell good and it must be a new product for me. I googled. And googled. And googled again. My last google was 'body balm you can make yourself'. Youtube led me to this video. I shall never be the same! I can't wait to buy all the ingredients so that I too can make my very own body balm (which doubles as a hair creme too!)

I have finally found a fellow raw food lover and health mentor who shares the fact that unless you can eat it - you should never use anything (if you can help it) in your home, on your person, the persons in your care, your pets (you get the point)... I never realized until watching this video that our skin eats (you know, absorbs and takes what it absorbs into the bloodstream) chemicals and becomes part of us. I treat my body like a temple, but never considered the largest organ God gave me - my skin!

Truly, we are what we eat. I learned so much after watching this video. Gotta go now. I am in search of cow butter...

Hope this is a blessing to you as well!!!

Natasha St. Michael's website is

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I have a confession to make (deep breath). Okay, here goes. I get attached to "things". Things that make their way into my life have a way of allowing me to attach without surrendering my control. Actually let me rephrase that. I have a way of attaching to objects which I allow to have control and take up space. Phew. Feel better now (exhale). I have many "things" in my life that are always there even though the people in my life that I expect to "be there" often aren't.
And so I let things become a barrier to people - just so I don't get hurt again. Things can only comfort you. Honestly, how can an outfit that provoked countless compliments let you down? A snuggly stuffed animal not hug you back when you needed a hug most? A beautifully displayed piece of art not inspire when life did anything but? A favorite pair of jammies not instruct you to rest when your heart told you otherwise?

How could things like photos of days gone by not be reminders of good things to come? A favorite cookbook not anticipate your dream of the perfect dinner party for four? A pink carnation jewelry box not remind you of the fragrant flowers that grew in your garden while growing up? Things are there for you to enjoy....

Ahh....and so my confession began today with a deep realization that the tangible objects I hold onto that initially comforted me had a way of becoming a burden or a source of clutter in my life. Yes. I realized today that I had a bit more emotional attachment to the things in my life and I needed to let them go to make room for the things that God wanted me to enjoy.

Specifically, what triggered this confession today was a light blue plastic strainer that I had initially discovered in my then-fiance's kitchen cabinet when we first began planning our new life together. Seeing that blue strainer with new eyes today (2 Cor 4:4) I made a breakthrough and finally toyed with the idea of letting it go. However, instants after my resolve, I reasoned I could still use it for pasta and anything else that came my way. And illogically recalled that I had compiled the Wedding Registries (yes, I had several) sans pasta strainer or other. And it would be good for rinsing fruit. That strainer was sentimental to me. It was after all a valuable "pre" marriage item of which I had few.

Then the voice of reason, Christina, why are you hanging on to this "thing" that no longer has a place in your kitchen? The thousand cattle on the hill are mine and yours as well. Why do you continue to hoard when I give you your daily bread and so much more. Let it go....

Listening but with one foot in the land of "let it go" and the other in "keep it" territory I pause. Besides the plastic blue sentimental strainer I also owned a shiny stainless steel strainer. I view that light blue plastic strainer each time I pull out the shiny stainless silver strainer from afar. I stress the word "view" because I rarely use it. I had placed it out of reach yet in plain sight for a reason. I was comforted just knowing it was there. It reminded me of brighter, carefree days.

Fists slowly loosened as I spoke softly to the Lover of my soul. God, you know how I get attached to things. I got attached to it. I did not want to let it go because of the memory of seeing it in the kitchen of my husband-to-be. I got attached. Letting it go makes me sad.

He listened. He always does. His silence confirmed what I needed to do. He who speaks last loses - yeah yeah...

Found Treasures
Recalling days gone by I have kept chewed up dog toys, an outfit I "found" in a consignment shop next door to my vet's office. My sweet girl Karamel sat in a cage awaiting her fate that day. That was the day I assumed she would be put down. I rushed her in on a very busy day at the vet's office. A Saturday in spring I remember it well. So many people in the waiting room - I stepped outside and saw the storefront. Lots of people in there too but I was able to grab a light blue sundress with sketched wildflowers and a collared v-neck off the hanger. It was mine! I didn't even try it on.

Heading home with my dog in the backseat, I was given good news. My dog could live a bit longer as we would be able to treat her heart with medicine so she could be with us awhile. I tried on that sundress that night and though it was a bit snug I decided to keep it and one day maybe cut it up and add it to my "quilt of many colors". I got attached to that sundress as it represented a bit of the joy I had in knowing my dog was spared that day. Needless to say, today I gave that sundress away. It was a "thing" I no longer needed. My Karamel deep in the dirt would not need a reminder of that day. I would not either. That day I was blessed with time. "Something" not to be taken lightly. The sundress someone else would enjoy.

I planted a seed one day. When I was nearly nine, I ate a peach. I hid the pit deep in the dirt and told no one. It was summer when I planted it, and Fall when I announced that the pit I had planted had sprouted, just to the left of the clothesline and directly east of the chain link fence which prevented dogs from entering our property.

My Mom didn't think that tiny tree would make it through that winter. I kept an eye on it and then announced it had budged through the snow and continued to thrive on into Spring. My peach tree  survived . I was proud!

That spindly trunk reached up to the Heavens and produced a peach. Just one peach. My grandfather proposed we cut off half of the branch so it would concentrate it's energy on producing fruit instead of leaves but I said "No". I was not yet wise in the ways God produced fruit for those who will allow themselves to be pruned. I did not value the process of pruning.

"My" peach tree was beautiful but never did provide another peach. It was barren but green and alive.

I was not prepared for the day my father cut my peach tree down. Without warning. Without discussion. Without a second thought to my feelings. He removed it completely from where it had been. No explanation. No apology. Just a circle of dirt remained where it had been - the size of my hand that dirt remained. It had been hacked, uprooted and thrown away. Discarded as if had never been. Later that dreadful day, my father ignored my tears then mowed over that space leaving a shard of cut grass. It was barren. It was gone. A thing of the past. The grass cuttings that covered the dirt turned brown then blew away and green grass grew in its place.

Did I mourn? Did I cry? Did I wonder why something so important had been destroyed so easily? Yes, I did.

I had gotten attached to that tree and the promise it held. I had learned that something could come from a piece of fruit eaten in my hand to the hard ground and turn green. I confess today I still mourn the loss of that tree. My father knew what that peach tree meant to me. It represented hope and new life given to me to bury in the dirt in order to teach me the result of reaping and sowing. It ended in death. A sad lesson in pain.

Not Much Has Changed
Today, I realized I still struggled with attachment to "things" - people, places, objects. Things. For this reason I have placed the light blue plastic strainer in a bag which will be donated to someone in need. I enjoyed it. Time to let it go. I realized my unhealthy attachment and decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone.

I now see space in my cabinet where that friendly reminder of my fiance had been. Instead I must focus on the fact that the same fiance is now my husband and he provided a stainless steel strainer for which I am most appreciative.

I pray I don't stuff "something" there where that object had been. Things. Letting go. Remembering. Letting go. Sharing with others. Realizing "things" should not control us. We control them. Freedom comes in realizing God gave us many "things" to enjoy while we are here. We are to share with others so that they will come to understand the Giver of all things. Thus the imperative that I put that bag with the light blue plastic strainer in the car. Now. Before I put it back in the cupboard!

I will look for the good 1 Thessalonians 5:21 My mantra will be, "If it isn't Biblical and it brings emotional attachment that I no longer need, it goes to Goodwill. Someone will appreciate the "things" that no longer serve me."

Letting go is wise. Holding onto stuff is hoarding. The Lord has reminded me today - there are some "things" worth thinking about!!

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, (can also refer to sisters too!!) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - - think about such things.

On these "things" I will ponder. I confessed. God delivered. He provided a better way of thinking that has nothing to do with the past.

Thank you God for your Word and for helping me navigate around those things which eventually will cause me to stumble and miss Your plan for my life.

It all began with a confession. Today. Tomorrow. It does not matter. Get right with God. Be real. And He will address "anything" that comes between Him and you. Even if it is a dress you wore the day your dog was spared, a peach tree that was barren but beloved, or a light blue strainer that had been replaced with stainless steel. Talk to Him. He will help you Navigate Through Life....

Don't let anything come between you and God!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

She Survived!

There in sunlight descending in the west she stood. I could see her standing next to her husband as I realized mine was there holding the cash I needed to buy my organic produce for the week.

I walked over and was stunned by her beautiful, short-shirred silver hair. Her eyes I remembered as blue now met her hair in a shade nearer to silver blue as if her eyes became a silver shadow of blue with a sheen of brilliant bluish gray. Her perfect-for-South Florida tank top embellished with bluish-gray rosettes adorned her pale skin in a way that accompanied the slowly-fading sun.

She did not see me as I approached happily, and humbly hugged her.I rejoiced in seeing her standing there. For it was not long before that I heard she was very very sick and very weak. She had been sick with cancer for so very long. I had made chicken soup and waited - received a thank you card and celebrated the very fact that she was even able to eat the meal and have the ability to recognize the giver of that chicken dish. I prayed for her many a day. I shed many tears for this wonderful woman. Now she stood there casually for which I smiled ear-to-ear I will admit.

Thinking back - we waited so very long and rejoiced with every good report. We refused to give up hope. She was too young and full of life. We hoped for a miracle.

Nothing compared to seeing her today as she was truly resplendent in her silver. I hope she knows what a blessing she is - how her courage and ability to struggle and survive has touched my life let alone many. She shared she wished she were still blonde. But today she was silver. Short haired silver but beautiful and so full of God and new life. Nothing compares to the beauty that comes from a life of hope and new beginnings.

She survived. She smiled. She is silver. She is beautiful.

Thank you Lord for new beginnings. For hair that grows back even after cancer. Though that hair may grow back silver and be short for many seasons, that new hair symbolizes life. She survived. Thank you Jesus for this miracle!

She survived. She stood in the Farmer's Market today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Read The Instructions

Opened the box. Spotted the big round object in another box. Plunked the lightweight object on the kitchen counter removed it from its cradle, yanked the lettuce from the fridge and threw it in the gadget. Oops! Duh. The whole point of it all I had forgotten. Quickly, after I doused the lettuce with water, in the spinner it went. I cranked the handle and watched the salad spinner go! My salad would never need to be rolled in a kitchen towel again. It would be perfectly washed and spun each and every time. Look out Rachel Ray! I was empowered with my new kitchen gadget.

But the result was anything but pleasing to the palate. Allow me to explain. I go to Boca Greenmarket each Saturday in the spring where I find extremely fresh produce often still with dirt and sand attached to the roots (how awesome is that, right?). The week of my salad spinner debut I had bought dandelion greens. I saw that gritty dirt on the roots and got excited. My salad spinner will take care of that!

Seconds after my green bag hit the granite, I got busy. I was a woman on a mission. I couldn't wait to see how fast the salad spinner would dry this green.  A Pavlovian response began to form in me (no not really) as I imagined the whir and flick of dirty water hitting the side of the Lucite bowl. The sound of spinning would be music to my eyes.

I soaked the greens in a bucket of water in the sink, rinsed them once more. Should I cut them first? I shrugged as I tossed them in whole. No time to waste. Into the salad spinner. Round and round my greens carousel. Whir. Whir Whir. Then silence. Sigh. Smile. I was sold before seeing the results. Bone dry, I threw them at once into the olive oiled saute pan. A slight sizzle erupted after a few seconds but no splatters! Success...or so I thought. A kitchen adventure gone awry I would soon discover.

Crunch. Grit between my molars. The dandelion greens had retained sand even though spun.  I washed it! I wasted my money. What a piece of junk. I can't even return it. I threw the box away. What if I had served that grit to company? I never had a problem before. So much for breaking from good old fashioned rinsing and towel drying....The Blame Game - blaming the good reviews, all those raving salad spinning aficionados, those who told me, "once you use one you'll wonder what you did without it!". Yeah right. I shoved the spinner to the back of my pantry next to the canned chickpeas and corn. I figured it wouldn't accumulate dust there - at least until I was able to list it on EBay.

The very next day as I was feeding my Cooking Channel addiction, I decided to fire up my DVR and resume an episode of Fresh Food Fast, a new show with Emeril Lagasse (creator of my husbands favorite appetizer recipe Hearts of Palm - I may just name my first child after him).  Well, wouldn't you know it - that blessed man pulled out a salad spinner for a recipe which included escarole! OMG. That man filled the big round Lucite base with water. He placed the escarole in it and swirled it around in the bowl, rinsed, filled it up and swirled it around again then proudly showed his audience how much dirt was still in the bottom of the bowl even after the second rinsing. He commented on the importance of "getting the grit out" because you don't want your guests eating sand. Where were you yesterday, Emeril!

Yes, on he raved about everyone needing a salad spinner. I sat in stunned silence as Emeril left the spinner to attend to his sausage. His directions and demonstration was perfect! I understood. I immediately felt stupid as I had the directions but left them in the box. I figured anyone could spin salad successfully! I was grateful for seeing this escarole spinning demonstration and am happy to report that I have now been spinning salad greens (and more) for months and never once encountered a spec of sand in it since I spent time with Emeril.

How simple. But how often do we mess up because we manage without instructions? Everything has instructions. Maybe the directions will not be conveniently "in the box" but once we search we will find the solution to just about anything. But like me, I thought I knew everything about what I was doing and as it turned out I knew nothing about a potential problem - grit. I had focused on those thrice-washed heads of organic lettuce that I wash anyways. That lettuce was always pristine to begin with, so I never gave grit a second thought.

And so as always God takes me to His Word. I liken the grit in my story to foxes in the vineyard. In Song of Solomon 2:15-17 we read, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. Beloved. My lover is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills."

"But it was just a little fox! But it was just a little grit!" No, beloved, a little fox is still in the wrong place and a little grit will ruin the whole meal. But reading the directions provides the solution and gets the reader back on track to success whether that success is merely serving a gritless green or protecting a marriage from deception. In this passage the direction could be stated in one word - flee! See it? "Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills."

The Bible is the instruction manual for life. It literally addresses everything in life for which we need direction. It is the best, most well laid out set of directions available in any language, for anyone of any age. But how often even after having been presented the directions, do we disregard reading the Bible?

Thankfully it is never too late to turn to God's Word, even if you have made mistakes (who doesn't make many mistakes even in a day?). For God's Word provides all we need to live successfully and to thrive like a green leaf in any season.

Thanks for navigating through life with me today in my latest kitchen adventure. I gotta go get a thank you card written for Emeril Lagasse. I might invite him to dinner. Of course I will serve him dandelion green salad (minus the grit of course!) No doubt we will watch the spinner together. The salad spinner will be music to our eyes and our ears. When it stops we may very well sing its praises and exclaim, "Bam! That's what I'm talkin' about!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunny Day Friends

Sunny day friends are those types of people that call you when the party at the beach got rained out and no one else was around to "hang with". Of course you weren't invited to the fun when the skies were sunny.

Sunny day friends are those "friends" that send the invitation way too close to the date of the event leaving no doubt that you were indeed on the "B List."

Just this week I realized I had naively considered one of my friends a rainy day friend. I had placed her on a pedestal in that category - that was until the sun ceased to shine and I experienced a dark cloud day and needed a friend. That friend never showed up - that is until the sun peeked back out after my emotional storm. That friend was indeed a sunny day friend disguised in a raincoat.

How do you know if your friend falls in this category? Hmmm..ask her to worship with you, pray with you or for you, to  come over because you "just need a friend." Real soon you will recognize a sunny day friend vs.  a rainy day friend. Rainy day friends grab their car keys before you ask. They are on their way to minister in a jiffy.

I flipped open my Bible to the Book of Jude. In this book in the Bible (the only one that consists of one book with verses and no chapters) Jude who is a servant of Jesus Christ and brother to James spoke these words with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of course!), "But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."

I wondered if sunny day friends came under the category "scoffer". How often do I invite those friends to church gatherings but they fail to show up? Often. Sometimes I see through a lie about having other obligations. Too many times there is suddenly "something that came up." But their invitations for all kinds of parties keep coming while I wonder if there will ever be a time when my friend decides to be honest with me.

I do not confront because secretly deep down I know the truth. But I keep hoping that they will be interested in God, in what I love and am passionate about. I hope the best for them and want to share my love and grow deeper in friendship with them. I want the bonds that created our friendship to go deep so that the history we share and the memories we have made will continue.

Often I wonder, "Where can I find the friend that sticks closer to a brother?" And then I know. SermonCentral  effectively answers my question.

And as I finish typing this compare and contrast of others, God so predictably challenged me, So what kind of friend are you? Silence. I am convicted.

How often do I call a friend without it being about me or me avoiding having to step out of my comfort zone? Guilty.

The Book of Jude concludes with an exhortation: Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
It's not wrong for me to categorize relationships. It's not wrong for me to be realistic about a person's intentions in order to lower expectations. We must all discern where we stand with people. But it is wrong  not to pray for my friends - no matter sunny or rainy day friends. After all - the sun doesn't shine all the time. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Storms do not discriminate.
God loves us each so much John 3:16. This is true friendship and beyond. God's Agape love is for me - for you, for His creation. Stepping out of my comfort zone to be a godly friend is easy when I allow God to give me the love to give others.
Gotta go. My friend is here. We are going to hit the beach. Not a cloud in the sky. But I am prepared. Got a big beach umbrella in the car - just in case. We can both easily sit under it and watch the raindrops or share shelter from the hot sun. After all, there really are friends for all seasons. Have to love them right where they are and hope they love you back. God is love. We follow His lead.
Bye for now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hello, Hello Again

"Hello?" I responded.
"Hello." Then conversation erupted intended not for me but a voice at the end of the cellphone. A woman two stalls down in the airport terminal bathroom ignored my friendly greeting.

Did I feel foolish? Yes. I did. Very much so. You idiot, she's talking on her cell phone. However, in the seconds before I realized my neighbor was not speaking to me I became excited. Hopeful. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago I entered a bathroom stall in a beach park. I entered feeling fine but realized in short order I had a very sick stomach. My husband stood by outside the door with nary a clue that his wife could not leave the humble abode lest hold her head up without the help of her hands because of an unrelenting dizzy spell.

I had hoped in those interminable moments (which turned into just short of an hour) for someone to enter the bathroom and ask, "Are you okay?" No doubt, anyone entering could hear my sighs let alone smell my dilemma (sorry). However, my pride kept me from asking for help. The stall doors slammed open and shut, open shut, slam, click and lock. Water hit porcelain as the paper towel machine repeatedly creaked  as women in bare feet, women in flip flops, women with children in bare feet, women with children in flip flops entered and exited. You get the idea. Other than the stall door movements, bathroom noises and foot traffic, I sat and suffered in silence.

After I was able to once again place my feet on terrafirma, splash my perspiration-drenched face in cold water and exit the bathroom, I made a vow. Not just to myself (that would be too easy to get out of as I often lie to myself) but to God. God, if ever I hear a woman in a stall that even remotely sounds like she needs help I am going to ask her if she is alright and ask, "Do you need help?"

I thought nothing again of that promise - that is until the bathroom in the airport terminal.

Back to that day. After my first response to "Hello," I waited expectantly for a response. Maybe this was the day that the Lord would use me to bring comfort to someone who was in need. When I realized this woman was not talking to me but was talking on a cellphone, I felt foolish and slightly disappointed but was reminded that I was only responsible to be available. What God does after my obedience is His business.

Who doesn't know the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37? In this parable Jesus tells the people basically (I am paraphrasing) to love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." So a man asks, "Who is my neighbor?" And in Jesus-fashion (love it) Jesus tells a parable (a story with a lesson to demonstrate an important Truth) about the Good Samaritan.

I challenge you to read the parable and come on back. Do it now. Why not?

It did not matter who the man was in need of help. The man was in need. Period. And because of who the passersby were and who the man in need was, the man was ignored. The story of the Good Samaritan dispels the lie that some of us are more important that others. We are all important to God!! See this website for a breath of fresh air....

In the story of the Good Samaritan the man in need was not overtly asking for help (he was half dead). I wonder how the story would have been different if he was able to ask for help. In my case, I was able to ask for help and failed to ask because of my pride. If I had let my husband know that I was in pain, he may not have been able to help me at that time, but at least he would have known what was taking me so long and could have prayed for me outside the door as I endured wrenching stomach cramps. But I did not ask so I did not receive.

Oh God that we all learn to ask for help, to trust that You will send the Good Samaritan to us so that we do not have to suffer in silence. Lord, impress upon Your children - to be servants for You no matter where our feet take us and not just walk on by because of convenience or because we refuse to believe Jesus's definition of "neighbor" as "anyone we happen to come in contact with."

Thank you Lord for that woman being in the airport terminal that day in that stall. I thank you that she was not in pain but just enjoying a conversation with a friend. Bless her now. I pray she knows that whenever and wherever she is when she speaks Hello to You that You will respond, "Hello. How are you? What can I do for you today?"

Thank you for the Good Samaritan and for reminding us that You will give us those opportunities to help and be helped as long as we are open to making friends in the least expected places!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Fell!

Fourteen years. Fourteen long years of being my husband's first mate on fishing boats without a single slip or fall. Many times I should have succumb to gravity and slippery salt on a slick fiberglass hull. Often I could be found precariously perched over the sea preparing for docking while the chug chug chug of the motor drown out my existence - and nary a trace of me would be found if I fell overboard while underway in a salty sea 1/2 mile from land.

Last week I experienced a fall on the boat. Oddly, the boat was not moving or rocking or salty. It was calmly docked at a quiet Bahamanian port. I boarded the Lady Bridgewater without fanfare but ended up with a humble lesson which I will never forget.

For anyone who knows me well, you know I have a dislike (more like an anxiety) for driving. Yes, God has been working on me for years. I have finally accepted this thorn in my side of anxiety attacks which have led to all out fainting spells which began in childhood. I have been driving more and more and beginning to trust God will my driving or avoidance of driving. And so, when my wonderful husband Vinnie told me he had rented a golf cart for the whole day while we were in the Bahamas, I silently vowed I would drive the golf cart and get out of my comfort zone a bit (In the Bahamas you have to drive on the opposite side of the road - a challenge for those who enjoy driving but not for those who already abhor driving!).

As my husband scoured the beach, I volunteered to follow him along the sandy, deserted stretch of beach driving the golf cart. He walked for miles, and I moved the golf cart along at a snail's pace - but I was driving it and enjoying it! After awhile, he jumped into the golf cart and announced he would like me to drive into town and beyond. So off we went! I enjoyed driving through the secluded grasses which bordered the beautiful white sugar sand emerald blue bordered sea. The island people would wave at us as we passed. No doubt they heard us long before we saw them as the golf cart was often louder than any other object within miles.

I gained a considerable confidence in driving this golf cart on that sandy, quiet road. I have to admit, sometimes I would slow down as a rare car would appear in the distance and then would speed by on the "wrong" side. Overall, though I was feeling pretty good about my golf cart driving experience!

We parked the golf cart next to the boat and ascended the ramp to the boat. My husband boarded and went inside the boat. Looking back, he always waited for me to board but this time I was lollygagging with the shells and sea glass we found, fiddling with beach towels and suntan lotion. I boarded without him, ignoring the one rule I knew best. Always keep both hands free when boarding a boat of any size. I boarded with my camera in one hand. Bad decision.

I silently slipped, the gritty sand on my right foot made a skid mark on the landing as I desperately attempted to break my fall. The camera remained in my left hand as my right hand grasped for the leader wire that was overhead. Both feet went in mid air was somehow my entire body landed in the cockpit. Thud. My head hit the fiberglass freezer as my back slammed against the cockpit door. I took a quick breath and realized I am okay. Laughter ripped out of my soul and erupted from my mouth. As I laughed out loud I revelled in the fact that I had been spared. For if I had fallen and hit my head and had gone overboard, I would have been found in the marina no doubt with a very different ending.

Out came my husband who heard the thud from inside the boat. He was confused as to what exactly had happened. My relief did not make sense to him. I was okay! I was spared!

Falling. When one envisions this verb no doubt the subject of gravity comes into play. Today I fell. Not from Grace Praise God! But on my kiester.
I took off the flip flops. I waited for the boat to come closer to the dock. Always perfect timing comes into play as a foot is closer than two feet and inches matter when boarding a large boat!

I held onto my pricey camera (never board a boat without having both hands free) in my right hand and leaned into the boat and grabbed the rail with my left. Easy peasy no sweat. Or so I thought until I swung around and slipped right into the cockpit seat made of hard, slippery fiberglass.

Fourteen years of boating with my husband and I had not broken more than a fingernail or two. Today, thankfully I didn't break anything but suffered a bruised my knee and ego. See, I thought I didn't need any help. Didn't need to call me husband and hand him the camera. If I had done so, I would not have grabbed his out- rigger lines to break my fall and gotten a bruised knee, sore arm and neck.

My impatience got the best of me and I boarded without help. If I had fallen into the water and hit my head chances are no one would see me as the murky blue Bahamas water from the recently passing storm would have hidden my body from sight. The many docks and twists and turns of San Salvador Riding Rock Marina would have made it difficult to find me if I had fallen in and become unconscious.

What struck me the most about my fall was the fact that immediately after gravity dumped me onto the deck, I began laughing and did not stop! My husband heard me literally "hit" the deck and came running out. I was worried he would yell because I yanked off his beloved out-riggers. I could not stop laughing and he became irritated.

Laughter Evidence of Relief?
My mother shared not too long ago that when she was in nursing school one of her assignments was to roll a deceased patient off a bed into a sheet. I know, I know. You are wondering what death has to do with falling? Hang on. She shared with me that often both nurses attending the task would giggle. I am not sure why, but I do believe laughter in my case and my mother's case may be a form of relief and a way to cope with a serious situation. I covet responses or comments on this as I do not understand why I would laugh after almost breaking my neck!

My husband reattached the out-riggers, I iced my knee for an hour all the while I thanked God for sparing me a more serious spill. The camera was intact and all is well with the world. Gravity is no laughing matter....but then again my near miss with disaster sure does make me smile. What a relief.

Sea Glassing 101

I was going to take a nap. Sun behind the clouds, light wispy wind flowed up the ascent, beautiful white sugar sand cool beneath the cushy beach towel, perfect sandy incline awaited its occupant. My husband open-mouthed as his head rested on the back of the tail gating chair. His face tilted toward the heavens. He blissfully snored - not a care in the Bahamas.

But the beach beckoned. Just for a minute I would glean from the sea. The tide just coming in began to pound the sand. As I walked ten feet or so I realized I needed a Ziploc just in case. I was hopeful as I saw white rocks, shards of conch shells and various colored glasses tumbling in the surf. Yes! I was confident I would reap much from my decision to sacrifice a nap.

I learned much from this seaside jaunt. I learned to wait, discover and to take action.

Wait for the waves to come and go and then see what you can grab - quickly! I learned right away I had to grab that glass or it would be back rolling back into the surf real soon. Life is often a waiting game. While we wait, are we prepared to take action quickly - at a moment's notice? Or do we miss the opportunty to grab that golden ring because we were waiting without a plan of action? Matthew 25

As in life, my sea glass was not always handed to me. I had to go get it.

If good things are worth waiting for, great things are worth discovering! The best spot to hunt sea glass was in the most treacherous area of the beach. Large rolling rocks pound the surf. Along with the rocks is the motherlode of sea glass pieces! This sea glass proved to be the largest pieces with the most rounded edges. Hunting here was worthwhile but painful at times. I was unprepared to face the surf as I had not brought snorkel booties and could not withstand the pelting rocks hitting my ankles and feet.

As I stood in the dry sand and assessed my situation of wanting to get in the game but did not want to become bruised and battered in the process. I pondered the fact that something that is hard to achieve is often the best challenge. Many things in life are worthwhile and achievable - as long as you are prepared.

I discovered in Ephesians 6 that the shoes of peace are a necessary part of fighting. Those well-meaning Christians that head off to the Mission field without donning shoes, helmet, breastplate, etc. will be in for a heap of trouble! Believers in Christ often have a great love for the lost, but neglect the most basic of protection.

In my case, the snorkeling booties would have given me the ability to step over each and every pelting rock that made its way to my ankles. No matter the situation, we must never be naive in any situation or we will discover ourselves knee deep in a heap of trouble (and no doubtthis type of trouble will be more painful than rolling rocks).

Take Action
I noticed it was much easier to spot the sea glass when the sun was at its brightest. The glass glinted in the sun as I watched it roll with the big rocks (I still didn't have snorkel booties on). Having time to reflect, I was reminded that when we let God illuminate our sins He is better able to take them from us. just as the surf handed the sand sea glass for someone to spot so does God savor the moments we surrender sin to Him. When we keep our sins hidden in the dark, God waits to deliver us from the snares that bind. We aren't given the bountiful blessings that were ours for the taking.

As I walked back to my still-snoring husband I smiled. I enjoyed my alone time but was ready to show him the sea glass I had battled the surf to acquire. I vowed to share what God had revealed to me in our time together.Waiting, discovering and taking action - the marching orders for many experiences in life.

Today's sea glass gleaning was about much more than smooth shards of glass. My time in the sun was a reminder that each of us are His treasure. He will speak to us and give us direction no matter where we are or what we are doing. He will equip us with everything we need as long as we are wise in our preparations and listen for His voice - before we head out no matter the mission. We are so much more valuable than silver or gold - or sea glass large or small...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meatless Mondays

One day I decided our Mediterranean diet needed some tweaking. I announced to my meat-loving carnivorous husband that we were going to maintain our mediterranean status minus the meat for one day a week. I thought my announcement would cause an uproar but instead was told, "Okay as long as we can still have pasta."

And so as I prepared the upcoming week's meals, I stumbled upon an interesting widget on the world wide web. I clicked on the pink piggy face and was introduced to the concept of "Meatless Mondays." Seeing this new idea spring up on the Food Channel confirmed the fact that losing the meat one day a week had many benefits - healthwise, budgetwise, timewise and earthwise!

The Meatless Mondays campaign is led by Sid Lerner, a former Madison Avenue ad exec, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. This concept is attracting the support of several top name chefs, including Mario Batali.

Sign me up!

Living on the Mountain: Who is Jesus?

Second Step To Peace

The politically correct world in which we live would not like to be reminded that merely “keeping the peace” does not bring about true change that God speaks of in His Word. As true believers in Christ, we must live in holiness actively pursuing peace in its fullness. We must be thoughtful but never impolite. The peacemaker listens and evaluates. He/she makes trouble to make peace. This process of true peace is only accomplished by again – - understanding who God is. And who He is not.

Consider Matthew 10:34.

Possibly you are asking, “Where is the love?” That does not sound like peace to me! But this is God’s Word and God in His Bible we see the threading interwoven just to make sure we “get it”. Luke 12:49-53 and Luke 14:25-33 remove all doubt. God is not interested in His followers being merely “peacekeepers”.

Who is the peacemaker? Only through Christ can peacemaking be a possibility. Apart from Christ we do nothing (John 15:5).

Next time we will take more time to take in the scene below. The ascent so far has challenged us with a bit of rocky terrain. I can’t promise you it will be any easier but I can promise you the Truth!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Timing Is Everything

Timing. Good timing. Bad timing. Time management. Can it be learned? Mastered? Conquered?

Yes. And no. I just recently found a great use for my kitchen timer. Having heard oodles and oodles of techniques to overcome procrastination, I finally gave in to the 15-minute timer. I was told anyone can do anything anywhere for 15-minutes (smiling). So I grabbed my kitchen timer one day and cranked it up and over the zero right to the 15 minute mark. I admit I was skeptical. I figured it would be right back in the utensil drawer the next day awaiting a baking cake or casserole's need for perfect timing.

My first attempt at 15-minutes to organized living was to scan and shred a mound of paperwork that accrued over the last year. That dusty pile was my Mt. Everest - it seemed insurmountable! I have to say, I was disappointed when the timer chimed. Not just because it scared the pants off my Persian cat but because I felt productive and didn't want to stop.

I kept going for 15 more minutes. I vowed the next day I would continue. And so the kitchen timer remained on my desk. That was a month ago. I believe my new system of efficiency was the result of a ticking timepiece. But I know better.

In His Word (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God tells us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"...

Recently my Mom shared with me that this portion of Scripture is one of her favorites. I have to tell you, it is also one of mine. Allow me to share some more of Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God.
(You can finish reading more if you click on the above link)
My prevailing success over procrastination was a pouring out of prayer. My wonderful husband prayed for ten years for me to get rid of my "piles"! Finally, I surrendered using a simple tool to try to overcome this hoarding, procrastinating, messy bad habit of paper piling. And it worked! However, it wasn't the kitchen timer that gave me the success. Sounds silly but I give all the glory to God! Why? Because it was time.
Time to surrender to the fact that I could not do this on my own. Ecclesiastes 3:6 states it well, "a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away..." I know. I know. Sounds too simple, as if I took the Scripture out of context. Right? Wrong.
Verses 1-8 in Chapter Three of Ecclesiastes is all about balance. When we are bogged down with stuff whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual or intangible, we are not free to roam through every season unencumbered. Scroll back up and read the seasons of life we all experience as Solomon describes.
If we are preoccupied, distracted, not utilizing time as time was intended we have - - chaos. As the one true God of the Bible is a God of order and never chaos we must realize that my messy procrastination and hoarding of stuff does not glorify my Beloved. Knowing He is in control of my life, I surrendered my struggle. I asked God for help. And He showed up. After all, how can I come to your house and help you clean your front porch if mine is too messy to exit? I can't. I would be rendered ineffective if I live in chaos and confusion.

Yes, we are talking about paperwork and clutter. But everyone has an area in their lives that they have not surrendered to God. My struggle is messiness and stuff. Yours may be something else. But we all have something we have to declare, "Uncle!". The Christianese version of "Uncle" may be "Let Go and Let God." You get the idea.
Let's be honest. There is only so much time in a day. 24/7/365 (a bit more in a leap year ;) but you get the point. We all have the same amount of time. But we are all deciding how to use the time we have been given.
Today I am not only thankful for this ticking invention on my table as I type. I am grateful for God who made me. I am blessed to have found this tool. My husband will say, "It's about time you got organized!" Of course I will smile and agree. God's timing is always perfect. So are the cakes and casseroles I still create - even without a timer. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be Still

It was a typical friday afternoon in sunny Florida. My husband was at work. As I cleaned the house, I hummed a tune. I headed out the laundry room into the carport with recycling bottles in hand. Thud. Then a torrent of thuds as the bottles hit the bottom of the empty bin.

Cigarette smoke. I glanced across the street and noticed my neighbor Steve's car in the driveway. His garage door open. Probably Steve's cigarette smoke. I then realized the dog next door had been barking non-stop since I had set foot outside. This doberman did not usually bark endlessly for no reason as the owners were so good about quieting him. That is - -  when they were home.

I opened the backyard gate, stepped a few feet in the yard and inhaled. No cigarette smoke there. I guess I had been thinking I would see someone smoking in my backyard! All clear, it must be Steve I reasoned. I headed back to the carport for a mop and bucket. The strong stench of cigarette smoke again invaded my nostrils. Myself a former smoker, I was now convinced this was not a smoking cigarette from afar. But a cigarette close by.

Instincts kicked in. I set the mop and bucket down, headed down my driveway. I was going to knock on the door next door just to make sure everything was okay. The next door neighbor had been broken into in broad daylight not even eight months prior. I knew they left their bathroom window open during the day and the dog would not have been able to reach that part of the yard because of the fence. Could someone be breaking in as a look out smoked a cigarette outside? I know that sounds crazy, but our neighborhood has experienced alot of crime recently. I envisioned this scenario.

As I walked by my front porch, I looked to my left and saw a bright red shirt in a pile next to my front porch chair. I took two steps forward and saw a pack of cigarettes on my table. Whhhaaaattttt???? Fresh cigarette smoke was in the air but I saw no one. Then I saw the bricks that were strewn across the driveway as if someone had stumbled over the brick plant bedding border in a hasty exit.

I ran back inside the house, locked the laundry room door, slammed the back french doors shut, made sure the front door was locked, set the alarm and called 911. I was not fearful, anxious or out of breath. I was angry. I had been inside without a care in the world while a complete stranger sat in the wicker chair on my front porch smoking inches from my bedroom window.

Hardly a minute later an officer approached the front door. Having watched so many CSI detective shows as well as remembering the dreaded dress Monica Lewinsky saved "just in case" I had left everything right where it was. Another officer asked a few questions and was off in search of a shirtless person (of course I assumed it was a man but the police would only describe a suspect as a "person"). The officer donned rubber gloves and methodically put everything in a paper sack.

I then knocked on my neighbor's door as the officer waited in my driveway. We needed to know if she saw anyone at my house. An elderly widow from the end of the cul de sac anxiously stood at the end of her driveway with a worried look on her face wondering what was happening on a friday at about four o'clock. She noticed the two police cars parked haphazardly at the end of the street. We motioned her to come down to my house. Us three women stood in the street. Each commented on the increase in this type of trespassing in the last two years. "Signs of the times", I said. "Signs of the times."

Five minutes had passed and the call came. The officer told me they had caught him. The suspect was found in the park. Did I want to press charges for trespassing? "Yes!" I told the officer. And then the officer's twenty five years of experience kicked in as he plead for this person. This caucasian thirty-something admitted he had sat on my front porch to get out of the heat. He had been kicked out of his girlfriend's house four days prior. He had lived two towns away and was recently "homeless". And intoxicated. And he had assumed no one was home and he would not be found sitting there for a bit. I was told he did not have a weapon. He did not fit the character of someone waiting for his accomplice to break in to my house. He was merely hot and tired and had chosen my house for refuge.

I experienced a brief second of doubt as to whether to press trespassing charges. I hung up and called my husband for advice. I was pretty much set on giving this guy a trip to the local jail. "No, don't press charges", my kind hearted husband informed me "but tell the cop to tell him if he ever steps foot on any of our properties again, he's going to jail."

And so the man was released back into the park at the end of my street, where he had run from me without a shirt or cigarettes. He no doubt was given back his property.

As I headed back up my driveway, I decided to sit in the chair where that man had sat only 15 minutes ago. I wondered what he had been thinking when he heard me take out the recycling. Had he thought the doberman was mine (we have a Beware of Dog sign on our gate for security) and I was going to let him loose? Did he see me and panic? Or was he too intoxicated to think clearly?

And then as so often God speaks to me after my emotions or my controlling behaviour comes to an end, I heard that still small voice that only God uses to get my attention, "Did he see the sign?" Sign??? And I look to my right and realize the big sunflower flag with Be Still and Psalm 46:10 written on it is slowly waving in the breeze. Only days before, I had taken down the Leprechaun flag for St. Patty's Day.

Did this person see that welcoming flag and the comfy wicker chair set in the shade? Did he choose our house to rest and  feel safe because there was no car in the driveway (we only have one car)? Or God, was it your sweet spirit wooing him there because You knew my husband would be the one person to give him grace and not press charges for trespassing?

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt sad. Had he knocked would I have given him water? If he had asked to sit there would I have called the police? God, how sad that we pray to help the lost and we pray to entertain angels unaware, and this person ran from me so fast that he tripped over bricks, left his clothes and belongings to escape me! I also felt conviction. For the two ladies and I had commented that of course this person was "black". We had wrongly assumed. We had behaved badly.

I learned alot that day. Several security measures we now implement. I will never leave the front blinds open just so the cat can see out while I leave the back french door ajar! That was quite stupid. If this person had been targeting our house to break in, I would have made it quite easy for him that day!

I felt protected by the Lord. I calmly handled the situation and allowed the officers to catch the suspect. My husband and I being the Crimewatch Captains for our neighborhood, I realized that day that all of the training we had received the past year from our local police station had sunk in. I knew what to do and did it with a clear mind. I felt this may have been a sort of "fire drill" possibly for something in the future. Of course I do not want to be a victim but I want to be the victor - always...

He chose the right house to rest. I pray he remembers the words on that flag, Be Still and discovers the rest of the verse. I pray that every person - shirtless or other - will see messages such as this waving in the breeze and seek out the true rest that only comes from Him.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

Friday, February 25, 2011

Visualize It

Ever have the experience of the same Scripture verse being presented to you possibly two or three times in one day or one week but in different ways? Of course many or should I say - most of us who walk closely with the Lord understand this method God uses to get our attention. As we mature in our faith it doesn't take too many of these repetitions before we take notice to that which is being presented to us.

This week, several "visual" Scripture verses caught my eye and stuck with me. These visuals mentioned dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist. I also could not let go of a verse with sounds which supported the vision (wordless sighs and aching groans).

The verses:
Psalm 103:13-16 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

Isaiah 42:1-4 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

And the cherry on top, a quote from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Amen. And Amen. What does this mean God? What do I need to learn from these words which create sentences which lead to thoughts which describe something I am supposed to understand? 

"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
"Visualize it."

And so back to Psalm 103:13-16 . Dust. We all have dusted our homes. Have seen dust fly through a sunlit room and swatted it just to create more dust. However, this verse is referring to the dust of the earth. See


A man's (and woman's) days are like grass. He flourishes, then in comes the wind and it is gone. Forgotten. Of course I am paraphrasing! I remember growing up in New Jersey and we would travel through cornfields on the way to get to the ocean. I will never forget the rows of dirt every few seconds that had been trod and rutted by machinery and men in the cornfield. Whir. Whizz. Shoosh. Seemed the corn and dirt went on for miles.

However, if a slow-moving farmer in a tractor-trailer pulled onto the road, we would slow to a snail pace. During the slow part of the drive, I looked up and watched the tall grasses as they subtly swayed in the almost non-existent breeze. The grasses mingled with the corn in many places. It was beautiful. Sometimes the sun would glisten behind the green and gold grassy spikes. and a prismatic effect would blind my pre-tween eyes.

Sadly though, I was never prepared for the fall harvest. The corn seemingly overnight husked and so much of the field burned to a sooty mess. Then tilled and left to the hands of time to once again be healthy soil fit for a field of grassy corn. One day grassy green goodness - the next darkly burned brown lifeless earth. When I think of "the dust of the earth" this is the image I visualize. I cannot help seeing this image without having the stench of burning brush in my nostrils.
Isaiah 42:1-4 A bruised reed he will not break. A smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

"Visualize it!"

The burning candle is easy. I looked up the definition of smoldering. My mother-in-law bought me a candle snuffer. Bright shiny brass with a long handle. Did the trick! I could snuff many candles in no time! Some of us believers are just slightly on fire for God. We are still smoldering, but secretly hoping to get snuffed out so we won't need to keep pretending God is our priority. But no - God will not be the candle snuffer in our lives. He will be there always (Hebrews 13:5) to softly blow inspiration into our lives so as to re-kindle the passion for Him that He intially celebrated when we first came to know Him personally.

My husband often uses a tool to saw the palm fronds from high up in the Queen Palm trees in our front yard. He bought this sickle from a very knowledgeable landscaper who grew up in Mexico hacking away at palm fronds. This man promised it would slice anything instantly. Well it did slice well before my husband left it in the front yard to rust (he doesn't maintain his tools very well - lol).

Oh the sickle still slices but he has to hack away very hard at the fronds now. Often he will yank and pull and the fronds will hang by several threads of palm fibers. My well-intentioned husband then goes to Tool #2 (some type of cutters) to cut the fronds away from the fibers before falling to the ground.

Sometimes he gets distracted between the "sickleing" (word?) and final cutting from the tree. Days later we will see the frond dangling from the tree no longer in its former greenness. It becomes dry and brown. 

In the same way, we all sadly sometimes become disconnected from the group. We detach - but not fully. God allows us to lose some of our radiance but does not cut off those who are truly His. In this way, others see our sad state and hopefully will be obedient to come to our aid and help us become the vibrant fruitful branch we were intended to be.

Hopefully we haven't been too badly sickled and we will mend and become useful again. Sadly, we may cut ourselves loose from the group on purpose or we may enlist their aid to chop us. Even more sad, well-intentioned Christians may disconnect us merely because we asked them to just "keep it all a secret." But God would never do that to us. No, not God. (Hebrews 13:5). He wants us to win the battle.
Romans 8:26 Groans. Yes, Lord I can visualize it with my ears. A groan is very hard to hear. It is painful to experience let alone have to sit idly back and listen to a groan. However, when the Holy Spirit groans for us no doubt the Heavens open up and action instantly begins on our behalf. No doubt it is a groan that has a guttural resonance. Amazing.

Lastly, from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Visualize it. Have you ever had something dry-rot? I am embarrassed to say that I kept a pair of support pantyhose in my drawer (ten years after I moved to Florida from New Jersey - - I know I know that is pathetic). I kept those pantyhose and never wore them but I kept them because just in case I needed a pair of nearly nude support pantyhose" one day they would be there for me. Not! They had dry-rotted and left a tiny mound of dry-rotted pantyhose dust in my panty drawer. Their only destination - the garbage. I cannot visualize a candle wick dry-rotting. Especially because it sits in a base of oil.

"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
Oh yeah God. I am still trying to figure out why you said that in the first place while I blogged today.

Matthew 25:1-13 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.

The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.

The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' " 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Ahhh. I get it now. To keep a lamp burning one must put oil in it. God's Word.

Visualize it. No, do not focus on the actual image of a book. The Bible is so much more. It is a life ring. It is a light not just unto your feet but a light for your path. Visualize it. Pure utter darkness. Have you ever seen it? God's Word is not only essential for seeing but it is essential for surviving.

I don't know about you but I don't want to be dust, without light, but instead a burning candle in a bowl full of oil. I want to be there when my bridegroom arrives.
Until then, we shall faithfully fill our lamps with oil for that one day. Until then I will continue to imagine the vision of Your glory through your Word.

Dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist, wordless sighs and aching groans.  Hard to visualize? Not when you have the Creator to teach, guide and direct you.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man,
his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more. - Psalm 103:13-16

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make Mine Lumpy!

Drat! The pea soup that simmered all day in the slow cooker was devoid of lumps after I blended it with my handy dandy candy apple red immersion blender (if you read my previous entry you would know how special that immersion blender was in my kitchen arsenal! see it here: But, I did not gauge the amount of water I had added to the lentils at the beginning of the slow cooker process, so now I had perfectly pureed lentil soup!!!

By now you may be scratching your head wondering why I would not want lumps in my pea soup. After all, this perfectly blended pea soup would be divine in a formal setting, in white bone china soup bowls on a Frenchman's table for four. Yes, it would be the perfect accompaniment with a croustade or a mushroom crostini plank.

However, I had aimed at lumpy pea soup because I love lumps in my soup. My mother makes the most homey, smell-good comforting pea soup this side of Heaven! And it seems every time I try to emulate her recipe, I get fancy no lump soup and it frustrates me to no end.

Speaking of taking your lumps (or not) - my husband Vinnie will not eat my mashed potatoes any more because of the lumps that I have tried for ten years to eliminate. I mash and I mash and I mash some more. But no matter how hard I try - homemade mashed potatoes Christina-style are never lumpless. Well that was until I started buying Betty Crocker boxed variety. He loves the boxed mash! Not a lump in the box.

Forget about it when we go to my Mom and Dad's for dinner. No one has to ask if she will be serving Vinnie's favorite lumpless mashed potatoes! Of course they are homemade sans lumps.

And so, knowing my wonderful husband will not eat a bean unless it is hidden in a meatball - today I once again tried to recreate my Mom's pea soup. For me. For me alone. I confess I selfishly made a whole crockpot full of pea soup for the three of us - me, myself and I.

Lumps. You try to eliminate them and you get them. You try to keep them and you come up short.

And I got to thinking. Yes, God-style. What is that phrase? "Like it or lump it?" So of course I looked it up! Click here for some explanations
Apparently Charles Dickens said in 1864,  'If you don't like it, it's open to you to lump it.'

(Then my brain which often goes in bunny trails) I remember receiving the Desiderata Poem from someone once. I cut it and tucked it into a book. I found it one day in my bookcase recently and I smiled. Because it is really is all about taking the "lumps" in life in stride! I hope you like it!


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career
however humble;
it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

by Max Ehrmann
©1927 by Max Ehrmann, all rights reserved. © renewed 1954 by Bertha Ehrmann.
Reprinted by permission Robert L. Bell.

And as God is always right there telling me what I need to hear, I remember His small, still strong voice talking to me the other day. I had just walked in the front door and as I hung my key on the peg, I heard him say to me, "Just love people. Love them."

Unmistakably God. Unmistakably His message to me that day. And so, today I dedicate this blog entry to all of you out there who are not liking it but lumping it - or taking your lumps in stride - or trying to make lumps out of something smooth - whatever your mission in life today I pray you are successful most of all in making the God of the Universe smile. I pray you are at peace. I pray you take a step closer to the Lord Jesus Christ who did everything perfectly (Deuteronomy 32:4)- so you and I don't have to....

Excuse me now, I need to call my Mom and get her recipe - pea soup and lumpless mashed potatoes. Make mine lumpy - lumpless for my hubby....

Lots of lumps, less lumps. No matter - make sure all you do is made with love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Wonder: Music Without God Hurts The Ears

Day One. Moved the Bose radio into my bedroom, set it atop my bureau and plugged it in after a year of being retired to the office closet. I decided I needed a radio instead of cds that often needed changing. Scanned through the stations and settled on easy 93.1 FM.

Day Two. Bopped around to the easy listening station which brought back blasts from my past. I was in easy listening heaven: Peter, Paul and Mary were leaving on a jet plane, Art Garfunkel reminded me that, "I only have eyes for you." Who could resist the charms of Dan Hill in "Sometimes When We Touch?" Ahh..romance at its core...

Sweet Grease star Olivia Newton-John twice that day belted out "Hopelessly Devoted to You." I kept the radio on continuously. Silence no more. I was not alone! All day long from the hallway before I entered my bedroom I listened to each stanza, danced into the room and sang each word loudly (because I could). Amazed I remembered each and every verse, chorus and word. I felt empowered as if the songs were long lost friends in which I had just reunited.

Old sweater comfortable. No, old sweater comfortable on a cold, crisp winter morning. One more try. Old sweater comfortable on a cold, crisp winter morning with a blazing fire in the fireplace, a cat on my lap and a cup of cocoa in my hand.

Day Three. Suddenly, I became more finely tuned in to the actual sentences. No longer were my ears tickled with the memories, sounds and voices of the past. I was actually listening to the words. Suprisingly, I was disturbed by the theme throughout each song. Darkness, hell, being alone, holding in feelings of fear, dust in the wind, if only you believed in miracles baby - - so would I, saying goodbye, rainy day people, breaking up is hard to do....

The filter on my Christian "lens" in which I process all things in life brought the hopelessness of this genre of songs into focus. The songs I had considered "friendly blasts from the past" offended me.

And no wonder. God was not in those songs. I sat on my bed and wept. How many hours of wasted time did I invest in singing those songs? I could have learned Bible songs, verses, meaningful wisdom and thought-provoking proverbs!

Just like Dr. Suess's Sam I am I could have substitute the green eggs and ham for "I won't learn those songs...on a train, in a car, in a house, with a mouse, with a fox, in a box, with a goat, in a tree..." Unlike Sam, I wish I never gave in to singing those songs and wasting time allowing the lyrics to etch themselves into my brain.

No wonder right in the middle of Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up is Hard To Do" I sobbed. For so many years of my childhood I had heard and memorized these songs and so many more. Like the Catholic mass, I can repeat them backwards, forwards, patting my belly, hiking a mountain, upside down - you name it. Those words are etched in my brain. They were my green eggs and ham. My steady diet of music. And now I hated it. No wonder. Music without God hurts the ears.

Until then I never realized how sad, empty and hopeless those songs were. No wonder I rebelled, searched and sought to fill the empty spaces in my soul that always were reserved for God.

The Bible teaches parents to train up a child in the way that he/she should go and he/she will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6) . Well now. I thank my parents for raising me with a foundation of faith. We were raised in the Catholic church. We did know right from wrong. We did pray before meals. We did attend church as a family and my parents did instill forgiveness and unconditional love in us always.

However, we did not have the Bible as our rulebook and guidebook for right living according to God. And so I thank God for His mercies in opening my eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4) just as Paul had the blinders come off after he lost his vision on the Road to Damascus. As John Newton's song "Amazing Grace" reminds me, "I once was lost and now I see." Better yet, see and hear....
Grace. Unconditional love God-style.

Lord Jesus, "Thank you for opening my ears today, for opening my eyes one day so that I could see and taste of Your Goodness (Psalm 34:8). Your Amazing Grace is open and available for all (John 3:16). Help me not to just be a hearer of Your Word, but a doer as well."

Yes, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. No wonder they call Him Savior.

James the Lord's "Brother" (I.e., Cousin) had it right when he wrote under the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of James:

"He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:17-27 NIV)

Forget Neil Sedaka. We aren't only Dust in the Wind. The Continous Soft and Easy Favorites have it all wrong. The backbone of my musical existence was always God. No wonder. He sang to me when I was sleeping (Zephaniah 3:17), when I was in the shower, even when I was singing solely secular songs and didn't know Him. I didn't hear Him serenading me until that day the blinders came off.

No wonder Whitney Houston questions, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" She forgot her first love. She lost her way. Amazing Grace. Come on back. No wonder she lost her way. GoSister, God is singing. He always was. Always will be. He waits for your sonata. Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound.

No wonder. He has never been just a blast from your past (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, that's something to sing about...even if you can't sing a tune in a tin can ~ He smiles and sings right back (Zephaniah 3:17) to you. And your ears will never be the same again.